I know what you’re thinking. And you are right. It’s about time I got this done. I have missed our little blog terribly and will do my best to bring everyone up to speed. In my defense, most of our spring/summer was spent without reliable internet for which I will do my best to never repeat. Not to mention that Nate and I both worked our tails off all summer in Chicken without much of a break. So now, back at the Winter cabin, life is returning to a slow steady routine. We are taking measure of our summer accomplishments as well as goals for the next year, and simply enjoying a simpler and calmer way of life here on the Yukon.
Starting where I left off is probably the easiest. This is part one of three installments.
Grace and Genevieve’s Third Birthday Party!
Grace, Genevieve and I took a trip out to the 48 at the end of March/April. We traveled to Oregon, Iowa, North Dakota and Montana before returning to Alaska after Easter. It was an amazing trip and was so wonderful to see all the family and friends. My Uncle Tom and Aunt Kelly hosted a birthday party for the girls, and thanks to my Mom’s organizing superpowers, it was a huge success! So many good people attended, some of whom I have not seen in ages. It was a dream come true, and thanks again to everyone who came!
Walking the Cedar Valley Nature Trail with Mom, Andy and Nick!
Our time in Oregon was short and we had a lot to button up there, but we did spend time with Bill and Judy, Terry and Diane, Cousins Joey, Elijah, and Jade, Jill of my dearest Salem, Kristen, Lena and Liam, and a very special Coffee House Cafe reunion with cherished friends Susanna, Meri, and Emily. Many good memories were made and relived and it was so wonderful to see everyone…Special thanks to Kristen for all of the help and encouragement, and for giving my little black cat a safe home.
Our drive to North Dakota from Iowa was one long day for the girls, but we made it to Hettinger late that evening and were happily surprised to find Ryan there, as well as Ken and Rita. The next morning was Easter, and we had a fine day meeting Nate’s family and friends as well as enjoying a beautifully prepared meal with loving company all around. And two fantastic matching white coconut bunny cakes for dessert! Easter evening we dyed eggs with Grace and Vieve. The girls were feeling a little sick so we postponed their Easter morning activities until the next day. They awoke to have the classic outdoor egg hunt, as well as indoor basket finding. It took them a bit to get the hang of it, but they enjoyed it very much.
Easter with Nate’s family in North Dakota! (love this picture)
Then off to Montana, where we spent an evening with Ed and Linda near Billings. They were the most gracious hosts and fed us wonderfully prepared delicious meals, and let the girls play with the abundance of their toys that belonged to their Grandson. We had a very nice visit and I am so glad to have met them as well! It was hard to leave but the next day we drove into Billings where the girls and I departed from the airport for our journey back to Alaska.
Back in Fairbanks we were greeted by our dear friend Robin who graciously hauled us back to Chicken for a few day’s stay at her place and another visit from the Easter bunny, and then on to Eagle. Driving down the hill into Eagle, I knew I had come home. Nate was out in the road waiting for us and I got out of Robin’s truck to the hugs of my man, and the loud greeting of 18 my very excited huskies. For the remainder of April we were blessed with an opportunity to work in Eagle (Nate) and a beautiful Cabin in the heart of town to stay in. Nate built 2 cabins for a friend and during that time the girls and I visited friends, went to the library daily, kept a watchful eye on the River, and generally had a fabulous time. We also had another birthday party for the girls. Our friend Sonja attended and brought 4 of her children, and Matt, Nate and myself we also in attendance. We had nachos and fruit salad for snacks and the cake was a decadent Coconut pound cake with a unbelieveable frosting. The kids and adults alike had a blast and it was well worth the effort.
Eagle is such a mysterious and richly colored little community. The history of Eagle is visible everywhere and nobody tries to hide it or make it look fancy. A log cabin community on the literal edge of civilization. Plain and simple, yet underneath there are so many layers. I am only beginning to appreciate this myself and look forward to many years of being fascinated by the charming, and barren qualities of this place that has held my heart for so many years, long before I ever had the courage to come here.
One of the greatest things I have witnessed on this planet Earth is the breakup of the frozen Yukon at Eagle. It is definitely in my top three favorite moments of all time. The power of this event is the indescribable and unbelievable. First of all, the river itself is huge. So big and deep and wide and unyielding, that when it freezes, it can take months. Only at sustained temps of -30 does the Yukon freeze enough to travel upon its surface. All winter the silence permeates and settles into the land and the wild things living upon it. It gets under your skin. The dog’s notice it as well, and every movement, breath, flicker of light or shadow, and wisp of smoke takes on a meaning of its own. The Yukon sleeps under its blanket of jumbled ice, making life and travel possible for the winter inhabitants of the country, as well as sheltering life beneath its surface.
When the spring rushes in, the river ice thins, and everyone thinks of the breakup. It’s on everybody’s minds and all the talk around town is about the Yukon. When will it break? Has it moved at Dawson? What about Circle? Will the ice rush out all at once, or will it jam? People make several trips to the river every day to see if it has moved. The day the river broke, we spent the morning at a friend’s place overlooking the river. We were able to watch a wall of ice slowly work its way downriver from the Village, but around noon it stopped. We all decided it could still be a while before it broke so we went our separate ways and started the day’s chores. Thirty minutes later I was at the well house getting water and I could see a giant wave of swiftly moving water rise up from the frozen surface of the river and sweep across the jumbled ice and Belle Island. The water traveled so fast and the ice started to follow so fast that I had a hard time registering what was happening. I drove back to the cabin where Nate was working and yelled “Its happening! The ice is going out!” I parked the truck and we ran down to the river. It was the most awe-inspiring event I have ever witnessed and the just the amount of power and energy released in those moments is hard to put into words. Ice chunks the size of football fields float by near the middle, while along the banks huge thick icebergs bob up and down being pushed and pulled by the sudden power of the river and the crushing weight of the ice and water behind them. It is so suddenly loud and savage, and the peace and stillness of winter is abruptly shattered and swept away in one swift moment. And then its spring. The ice continues to flow for a week or so, slowly becoming smaller chunks and the water slows down from its initial whoosh and rush, to a slower and deeper churning. The river is still quite dangerous at this stage and sometimes large groupings of ice will come down the river from places in Canada that broke later than we did. To be safe, no one plans to travel on the water for a couple of weeks at least. I wish I could describe in accurate emotional terms what this experience did to me, but alas, I cannot. I know without a doubt it was one of the most entrancing, hypnotic and bewildering feelings. Standing at the edge of the world with a small group of people watching an event that has happened unchanged for at least 10,000 years. No television cameras or swooping helicopters. Just the sound of my own breath escaping me. And the layers of river sounds as it breaks its sleep.